A sergeant first class and officer in charge of the “health, welfare and discipline” of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, including when the women were showering or otherwise unclothed. According to the New York Times, Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon is being charged under four articles of the Uniform Code for Military Justice, including indecent acts, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline.
The Army is notifying a dozen women that their privacy may have been violated. While some details about the case are still sketchy, McClendon allegedly shot photos of female cadets in the shower, while other images appear to have been taken through windows. Some appear to have been take consensually, while others do not.
The Army has made no formal announcement about the case, but spokesperson George Wright answered questions from the Times. The Times was alerted to the situation when “current and former members of the West Point community” contacted the newspaper saying they were alarmed by the accusations and wanted to know what would be done.
Wright told the Times that the Army intends to “rebuild trust through our response” and to provide “the full range of support to those whose privacy was violated.”
McClendon served as a “tactical noncommissioned officer” at West Point in charge of cadet welfare. Each of these officers is in charge of 125 West Point cadets and is under order to “assist each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs.”
West Point currently has about 4,500 students, just over 15 percent of whom are female.
After repeated instances where officers charged with policing sexual violence and harassment in the military have been accused themselves of assaults, harassment and even pimping out female soldiers, some lawmakers have called for civilian authorities to usurp the military chain of command and prosecute sexual violence and harassment outside the military justice system.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Times that he is concerned that the pattern of abuse is making the military an unattractive career option for women.
“We’re losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem,” he said. “That’s a crisis.”
[image via the U.S. Military Academy’s Flickr photostream, Creative Commons licensed]